Conyers demands ‘RESPECT’ for Motown musicians

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Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) helped introduce a bill Thursday that aims to ensure retired musicians are paid royalties by digital radio stations.

“Digital radio stations that earn millions off Motown classics but fail to pay royalties to the artists who recorded them are withholding hard-earned profits from deserving musicians,” Conyers said. “Refusing retired artists royalties from digital radio stations is particularly unfair.”

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Conyers said the Respecting Senior Performers as Essential Cultural Treasures (RESPECT) Act would clarify that any music service relying on the statutory license for digital transmissions must pay royalties for all the music used — regardless of when it was recorded. Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.) is the lead sponsor of the legislation.

“The RESPECT Act keeps faith with these living legends of American music — the famous greats and the less known musicians who supported them — and makes sure they get a fair shake,” Conyers said. “At a minimum, that means getting fair pay from the digital radio stations who are marketing stations based solely of pre-72 music and profiting off the work of the men and women who inspired a musical revolution.”

He said the legislation was needed because digital radio services are claiming a legal loophole allows them to broadcast music recorded before Feb. 15, 1972, without paying the artists and labels that created it.

Motown and Oldies legends such as Martha Reeves of Martha and the Vandellas and Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, among others, joined Conyers at an event where he introduced his bill.

"From Hitsville to Nashville, some of the greatest music the world has ever known was recorded in the 1960s. And yet it’s this golden age of music that digital radio says is worthless," Reeves said. "Taking the creative fruit of someone’s labors and paying them nothing for it is unethical, immoral, and simply un-American. It simply has to stop."

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